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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Outcasts: "Episode Eight"

Illustration for article titled Outcasts: "Episode Eight"
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There’s a conversation between Cass and Fleur late in this accidental series finale that reminded me of one of my favorite exchanges from the movie Barcelona.  Chris Eigman tells Taylor Nichols that he’s been doing a lot of reading lately, and “one of the things that keeps popping up is about ‘subtext.’ Plays, novels, songs - they all have a ‘subtext,’ which I take to mean a hidden message or import of some kind. So subtext we know. But what do you call the message or meaning that's right there on the surface, completely open and obvious?”  To which Nichols deadpans, “The text.”

This is the problem, not only with Cass and Fleur’s dialogue—which is all about whether human beings can change or we’re all just prisoners of our circumstances and genes—but with Outcasts as a whole.  It wants to be about big ideas in the grand science fiction tradition, but it can’t figure out how to convey those ideas through compelling characters and inventive storytelling. All it can do is recycle tropes from earlier, better works and saddle its characters with half-baked dorm-room philosophizing in lieu of dialogue that resembles actual human (or AC) speech.

As “Episode 8” opens, some sort of green gas is zapping the citizens of Forthaven, including Tipper, and infecting them with a new strain of the C-23 virus, cleverly dubbed C-24 by Stella. (I guess we missed the first 22. I smell a prequel!)  Julius is ready to turn the population against Tate by revealing the contents of the secret Omega file on Fleur he received from the approaching transport.  Fleur has barely had time to recover from her magical night with Jack before her one-night-stand and the rest of the XPs arrest her and lock her up.  Julius reveals the reason, which he’s learned from the Omega file: Fleur is actually an AC. So after spending most of the season ripping off Lost, Outcasts has now turned to Battlestar Galactica and pilfered the “I’m really a Cylon” twist.

While Stella works to establish some sort of ultrasonic ceiling over Forthaven that will prevent the Host Force from messing with them further, Julius puts the final stages of his coup attempt in play, calling a meeting of the Council for a censure vote on Tate.  Tate turns the tables by resigning and appointing Jack as his successor, a move that stymies Julius, proving once again that he’s nowhere near as smart as he thinks he is.  In fact, he’s not even as smart as Jack, who spent the entire series as the dumbest man on Carpathia until this week, when suddenly everyone and their brother started praising his intelligence.  Jack defies Julius’s plan to wipe out the ACs (including Fleur) and returns the presidency to Tate, and my least favorite character in TV history winds up in a cell, still unable to wipe the smirk off his face.  It’s not the most satisfying comeuppance ever, but I’m still glad it turned out Julius really was a smarmy weasel everyone saw through all along.

It’s no secret Outcasts concludes with a cliffhanger never to be resolved, so I can’t say I was disappointed with the ending—after all, that would imply that I care about what happens to any of these people, which is surely not the case. If anything, I was hoping for a real doozy of twist—the more ridiculous, the better.  Instead I got one more weak swipe from Lost, as the transport ship finally landing was the equivalent of the hatch finally being opened at the end of season one.  One difference is, I’ll never find out what’s inside. The other one is, I’ll never lose any sleep over it.

Stray observations:

  • Now that the show’s over, I’ve enjoyed going back and reading some of the harsh reviews by British critics.  “Irredeemably Awful!” - The Times of London. “Staggeringly Uninteresting!” - The Daily Telegraph. “Excruciating Sci-Fi Rubbish!” - The Daily Mirror.
  • I also read this piece, which quotes writer Ben Richards tweeting, after the show had been moved out of its primetime spot, “I have every confidence we will rule our new slot. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose!”  Jesus, this guy even steals from better shows on Twitter!
  • Now let us never speak of this again.